While COVID-19 rightfully dominates news coverage and Henderson, Franklin has been providing our clients with information, updates and links to resources to help get through this, we also recognize that the mundane is sometimes just as important. Thus, in a world without Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL, NASCAR or F1, we offer our own unique sports coverage, with an intellectual property slant.

Tom Brady Leaves Boston, Files Trademarks Applications

After 20 storied years with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady turned his back on the franchise, his fans and six Lombardi Trophies to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is undoubtedly a bitter pill for New England fans to swallow, who will now have to get used to mediocre football. (Patriot fans, please see Chicago Bears for guidance).

On the other hand, with his place in the Hall of Fame secure, Brady was looking for new challenges. Specifically, it appears, the challenge of brand extension. Almost as soon as the ink dried on his new contract with Tampa Bay, Brady’s management, TEB Capital Management, Inc., filed applications to register the trademarks TOMPA BAY and TAMPA BRADY with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The trademark applications identify the goods the mark will appear on, specifically all the clothing, hats and footwear that Tampa Bay fans are rushing out (at least online!) to buy. Time will tell whether Brady can repeat his on-field success with Tampa Bay, but it is certain that his off-field brand strengthening moves will allow him to throw from a deep pocket.

Nature Boy Down for the Count

Ric Flair had an impressive career, wrestling for nearly 40 years in the WCW, WWE and TNA. He claims to have won no less than 21 World Champion belts, most under the nom de guerre Nature Boy. From the early 1970s to the 2000s, Nature Boy was a regular combatant and had widespread media coverage and fan following. He fought the likes of Hulk Hogan and appeared in countless cage matches that no one could escape. Like most of his fellow wrestlers, he was also an entrepreneur and widely marketed himself and the NATURE BOY brand.

In April, 2018, with his wrestling pretty well behind him, Nature Boy filed an application to register the trademark NATURE BOY for, among other things, t-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts. Despite his notoriety in the world of professional wrestling, the USPTO refused registration of Flair’s NATURE BOY mark due to a prior registration of the mark NATURE BOYS. The NATURE BOYS mark was registered for nearly identical goods, specifically clothing for fishing. With the goods being essentially identical, the one letter difference between NATURE BOY and NATURE BOYS was not enough to distinguish the marks from each other.

Despite these similarities, Flair pressed an argument that his NATURE BOY mark carried a distinct and different meaning from NATURE BOYS since NATURE BOY was a reference to his wrestling character. Flair contended that his renown as Nature Boy should have been considered to distinguish his mark from NATURE BOYS. As forceful as it may seem and as renown as Nature Boy is, the USPTO countered by pointing out nothing in the NATURE BOY trademark application, besides the words NATURE BOY, in any way indicated it referred to Ric Flair or Nature Boy. The USPTO could not look past the four corners of the trademark application to infuse NATURE BOY with some extraneous meaning. Accordingly, the NATURE BOY trademark application was refused.

乔丹 For the Win, Again

Michael Jordan is still a global phenomenon as a celebrity personality and, more importantly, a brand. He also aggressively protects that brand. For instance, in China, MJ has been embroiled in a dispute with the apparel company Qiaodan that rivals some of his best, longest running feuds with the likes of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Reggie Miller. The dispute centered around Jordan’s name, which translated to Chinese is Qiao Dan, or 乔丹.

China has been well known for tacitly allowing infringement and copying of western names and brands. Jordan, however, would have none of that and has been battling Qiaodan for years. In late March, after almost eight years of litigation in lower Chinese courts, the Supreme People’s Court of China decided in Jordan’s favor and has barred Qiaodan from any use of MJ’s Chinese name. This ruling is a rare victory of for a western brand and hopefully a harbinger of things to come as China implements some of the intellectual property protection measures it agreed to in the Phase One trade deal.

Photos courtesy of wikimedia commons